When culture takes over ...
We carefully placed new season stock on hangers while simultaneously putting chocolate covered malted milk biscuits in our salivating mouths. It was an early Saturday morning and I was working at my part-time job as a sales assistant in a women's clothes store. Everyone went in turns to say what they had been up to during the week - it seemed like everyone had been up to loads but when it was my turn I described the hell of writing a dissertation and soon the conversation turned into the pros and cons of university life. Then I asked the beautiful girl in the maxi dress, who seemed to know a lot about the teaching degree, whether she was at university at the moment. She shrugged, took a sip from her steaming cup of Nescafe coffee and said, 'no point in me having a degree because in our culture when you get married, you are expected to stay at home and look after the children while your husband works. You end up wasting it!' I was speechless - to the point where I just had to change the conversation because the air had somehow gone sour.
She felt judged and I felt stupid for making assumptions.
I knew this happened in the world, just never thought it would happen in Britain, to a girl who had been born and brought up a few miles away.
Last week parents of a girl called Shafilea Ahmed were charged over a suspected honour killing after her badly decomposed remains were found in February 2004 on the banks of the River Kent in Cumbria, following a flood. A young woman who had ambitions to become a lawyer, killed because she did not want to marry the man her parents had found for her in Pakistan. And her story is not unique.
I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that no matter how removed you are from your country, your culture always takes precedence. So you see not all women in rich countries are empowered and in the position to make their own choices. We are all in this fight together.